Written By Marty Block

In Memory Of “Buddy” And With The Help Of All Those Who Cannot Speak For Themselves…Our Special, Four Footed Family Members ­ Our Beloved Pets.

“Just because you are the owner of a pet, doesn’t mean you are deserve the luxury of one”

Animals are interesting creatures. They tend to make us frustrated, confuse us, make us angry at times, and yet we, as humans seek their companionship and continue to try and win their approval as equally and as much as we want them to win ours, because we know they can bring joy, happiness, laughter and companionship to our lives each and every day. Dogs are incredible creatures, they have intense feelings of love, loss, commitment, and that makes them almost human in many respects. We, as humans, should respect this creature for all it is…….A part of our family, to be treated humanely and with the compassion they deserve.

Having a pet, is certainly a commitment on the part of the owner. Proper food, exercise, attention, training, medical care, and of course proper grooming is all-essential to keep our animals healthy and happy.

When we decide that we are going to make that commitment to add a “groomable” pet to our lives, it is extremely important that a routine schedule is set up for regular care by your chosen groomer.

Most dogs that require groomings, such as poodles or spaniels for example (and hundreds of the other breeds including mix breeds) are usually groomed professionally every 8 weeks or so. But please understand that a Groomer cannot be the sole caretaker with regards to coat up keep, as all breeds need the attention of brushing/maintenance by the owner in between the professional grooms to be certain to reduce matting, infection, and numerous other skin conditions that can come from lack of simple daily at home coat care.

Today is grooming day. The appointment is made, you even reminded your dog that he/she will be “going to the groomer today.” Fido hides, FiFi runs for cover. Do they know? Do they care? Let’s take an owner through a day at the groomers and what your pet and the groomer experiences to allow you to make the decision.

Wake up Fido! It’s grooming day! It is very important the owner be ON TIME for their scheduled appointment. What’s 15 minutes late? Well, it can hold up any and all grooming of every dog in the shop when one client is late. A groomer (primarily one that works alone) cannot start any grooming process on any of the dogs admitted to the Salon until all scheduled dogs are admitted. This is due to a few reasons. At no time should a dog be left unattended on a grooming table, or in a tub without the groomer right there at all times. A dog, for safety reasons and control, is leashed to what is called a grooming bar on the table, or is attached by leash to a secure point in the tub so Fido cannot jump out/off thus causing a potentially serious injury or even death. If a dog is left unattended even for a split second, he or she could actually step off the table, or try to jump out of a tub with a leash around his or her neck…a groomer “behind” on his or her daily schedule should patiently wait to see if you show up soon before starting the grooms on other dogs if at all possible. If you do show late and the Groomer had no choice but to begin grooming waiting dogs, the groomer should REMOVE the dog they have started grooming and place it in the safety of a cage or crate while admitting your pet. But, this can seriously confuse a dog that has been on a table or tub and it can create anxiety on behalf of the waiting animal that really believes he or she is done! It is also extremely difficult and can even be dangerous to keep lifting and securing the tabled or tubbed dog that believes it’s time to go home. Anxiety sets in and it can take a long time to re-calm the animal for a fresh start. Please be kind…Be on time…

Fido arrives at the salon… Tension begins the moment he gets out of the car……..Yup, it’s time to be groomed. “YUCK. I hate to be groomed! All that primping and such, and by a virtual stranger! I would much rather be chasing a squirrel, eating my morning treat, watching the family get ready to leave for work…….At least they would leave me alone if they went to work! But NO………I have to get carted off to this SO CALLED groomer… At least at the Vet, my owner gets to stick around…….And I’m only there for a little while. Here,…..Oh man…. I have to stay for what seems like FOREVER…My owner always says “I’ll be right back, be a good puppy, don’t be scared.”…..Yeah right………You just walked out the door. And I’m sittin’ here wondering if you meant it? OR did you just walk out and leave me forever with this stranger with really bad taste in plastic clothes?”

At the time of drop off, your Groomer will most likely try to do an initial inspection of the overall coat condition of your dog. This is done for 2 primary reasons. First being, can your dog actually be groomed the way his or her owner would like to see as a finished product, or is the coat in poor or semi poor condition and will require a more intense dematting, or even clipping much shorter than initially envisioned by the owner, as it should be discussed prior to your leaving so you will not be “shocked” by a groom that wasn’t exactly what you had in mind. The second reason, may be to gain an overall initial view of what type of temperament your pet may have so the groomer can determine if it is safe to groom the pet in the fashion you as owner chose, and what calming steps to take if your pet is an overly nervous pet to make the grooming experience as pleasant and safe as possible for both the groomer and animal.

This is the time it is imperative you, as owner, share your dogs personality with the Groomer. A dog that has been know to snap, hates his bath, blow dryer, feet touched, etc. can place your Groomer in a very dangerous situation. In many cases, if a Groomer is the subject of a dog bite, it could potentially end their career forever…even from a dog as small as a Chihuahua if the bite should occur in an area that damages the use of a muscle or tendon. Groomers use tools such as scissors or thinning shears on virtually every breed they groom. The tools are only an extension of their hand and it would be impossible to carry on such a delicate career if incapacitated. Not to mention the issue of a mandatory Rabies quarantine for your pet if he or she should bite any person. If any of this can be avoided by sharing any and all information from past groomers reports, or your knowledge of a potential problem, please do so at this time. For the sake of everyone involved. Further discussion on how to deal with this can be discussed between the owner of the pet and groomer. “Safe” steps can be initiated for a safer groom, and each party will appreciate the up front knowledge and further decide on the chosen plan of action in these cases.

Many owners of beloved FiFi or Fido really don’t know why it takes so darn long to groom their pet. Sounds simple, just bathe the dog, dry it, clip it, and send him on his way…….Sorry, but it isn’t that simple at all. (Boy do we wish it was!)

Each dog has a unique personality, coat type, groom style, drying time and method, and in some cases a possible medical condition or age factor that may require additional care/caution/attention on the part of the Groomer.

When Fido arrives he certainly isn’t thrown directly into a tub! Fido is first placed on the grooming table for a thorough examination of coat, skin, ears, feet, and yes, even teeth. Why? Because all of these things help us determine what the next step will be in the individual grooming process. For example, if Fido has a painful gum infection or a bad tooth, it is very important that the groomer is very aware of this, as it is painful to a dog when the face portion is handled, and could result in a bite to the groomer or further aggravation to your pets condition.

Skin disorders will require special shampoo’s, or external parasites may be detected at this time as well, requiring the groomer to use a specific plan of action to eliminate the problem in the safest way to prevent an infestation to the grooming salon and other pets in their care and of course provide an immediate, safe relief for your pet.

General coat condition is re-evaluated, and the groom you decided on is envisioned by the Groomer to see what it will take to accomplish. Someone that may ask to have Fido’s coat kept at a certain length, may not understand what Fido will have to endure to get those results if there is any intense matting that must be removed.

Dematting can be an extremely painful procedure. In order to “keep length” on a dogs coat, it must be completely dematted and free of all mats, tangles, and snarls BEFORE the coat can be clipped to the longer length desired. A Groomers Blades MUST be able to either go under a mat to remove it, or the procedure of dematting must begin. A Groomer may very well try to explain to the owner that it is “impossible” to dematt your pet, and they will not place your dog in such a painful and potentially dangerous situation. Dematting can not only cause intense pain for a pet, but can actually severe skin, cause blood clotting, amongst other horrible injuries, but can also turn a very lovable pet into a fearful, scared, potential protection or fear biter that will never be the same pet you once knew and loved. All for the owners sake of vanity? The dog doesn’t care what he/she looks like! It is only the owner that is the one that might not understand. Always remember, the coat will grow back. With proper in-between upkeep Fido will have the coat you have always wanted.

Your dog is important to us. He or she should NEVER be subjected to this type of treatment by anyone. If dematting is out of the question because the coat may not be salvageable, PLEASE listen to your groomer. A good Groomer will not intentionally clip your dog “too short” unless there was a reason. Sometimes it is necessary and it may have meant it was necessary because the in between home care was not done properly or kept up by the owner. This is a great time for you to get a simple schedule of at home care/brushing in between your professional grooms so the next few groomings can obtain the coat length desired by the owner without having to put your pet through the pain of a potentially harmful and often devastating dematting. Please, be realistic when asking for a specific groom on your pet. Remember, you get to leave, and Fido is the one that stays behind to whimper in shear pain to accomplish your “ideal” looking clip if serious dematting is in total order to obtain such a look. Here is a good way to determine your pets overall coat condition for the grooming you desire and to be sure your pet is being cared for by your family in between groomings : Take a comb (preferably a metal type comb as plastic can actually cause a static/snarling problem) and starting at the face/beard all the way to the tip of the tail, comb through all parts of your dogs coat including the armpit area, and under the tail. Did your comb make it through? Or did it come to a halt? Now, take a closer look. Is it a “snarl” or is this what is called a skin mat or felted mat? A skin or felted mat is pretty tight to the skin. Many people make a very sincere effort to keep their pet combed out, but because they did not comb or brush from the actual skin out, they actually started ABOVE the mat and combed the hair through. Thus appearing as though the dog is not matted. (And if you bathe or wet a dog that has any matting, it intensifies the mat making it tighter and almost impossible to get out without actually clipping or cutting very short)Try it from the skin base and see what happens. If you passed the “My dog is not matted test” then PAT yourself on the back!!!!!!!!!!! Your pet’s coat is in good shape and you should be able to request just about any groom on your dog! (Within obvious reason of course!)

At this time we check the ears, pluck the hair, and clean the ears or just clean the ears depending upon what breed we are dealing with, clip the toenails, and shave or scissor the bottoms of the dogs feet, and do what is called a “groin markout” if the breed requires this. (This is where the hair is clipped in the groin area to help keep your pet clean and free of matting and soiling where staph infections and other disturbing dirt can accumulate.)

After and only after all mats and tangles are removed can the groomer begin the actual groom. (If any length at all is to be left on the dogs coat)A general rule of thumb for a groomer is: If you are removing half or more of the actual length of coat on a dog, then, what is referred to as a “pre-groom” is done. The clipper is used to remove the initial allover length, thus allowing a shorter drying time for your dog. In other words, why dry coat that isn’t going to be there anyway? This also produces a nicer finish to your dog’s coat in the end.

After the initial coat is removed and all the other details are accomplished (such as the groin mark-out and nail clipping, ear cleaning) your dog is ready for his/her bath.

A thorough bath with the appropriate shampoo and conditioner is used. Please keep in mind that the dog is lathered and rinsed until the water runs completely clear. It is not unusual for a dog to be bathed 2-5 times taking up to 45 minutes or so depending upon the size, coat texture and debris. Many groomers will check and “express” the anal glands on your dog while the pet is in the tub. Dogs can get a buildup of anal fluid in a gland that is located directly below the anus. You may have noticed at one time or another that a pungent oil like liquid is present on your pets rear quarters, this is most likely your dog expressing this liquid as the sac is overfull. Some dogs need assistance with this, as the sac/gland will not release on it’s own. If you have noticed your dog “scooting” this may be an indication he/she is trying to express this annoying liquid by his/herself. It is imperative for a groomer to have a squeaky clean coat to work on so as not to further dull clipper blades and shears in the finishing groom and to be able to produce a quality groom. When the bathing procedure is complete, your dog is towel dried and depending upon what breed, coat type, size of dog, texture of coat, and your dogs ability to accept a particular method of actual drying must all be considered. Cage drying can be used on a dog that may not accept a hands on drying method, or if a coat type requires an actual “blow out” of initial water from the coat prior to the drying, (usually being a double coated or larger breed dog or thick coated dog) it will require what’s called a “force air” initial dry, and then on to the final method of drying choice depending on the dogs tolerance. Many dogs are dried using the “fluff” dry method of which is a complete and total hands on drying to direct the coat with the lay so as to allow a specific groom, or final finished look. The drying time on a dog can take a groomer anywhere from 20 minutes (for small less dense coated breeds) to 2 hours or even more on some of the heavier double coated breeds. Keep in mind that clippers or scissoring/thinning cannot be done on a damp or dirty dog. The dog must be completely cleaned and dried before hand.

When the drying procedure is complete, then it is on to the grooming table once again. This is called the “finish”. It is where the actual style and creativity of your Groomer takes place. It is not uncommon for a groomer to change clipper blades half a dozen times or so to achieve the final look, or to switch scissors several times, and involve thinning shears as well for blending purposes or thinning of thick coated areas such as in the rump or chest area of your dog. Before the actual finish is started, the groomer must completely re-brush and remove any loose hair being certain they did not miss any matting or excess shedding to assist in allowing a clean and tidy finish.

A finish on the average dog can take in many cases 1-2 hours depending upon what breed is being groomed. The final clip is completed, the edges of your dog’s feet and hair between toes may also be re-scissored again depending upon the breed. The excess missed hairs are scissored. So in all actuality, your dog is really completely groomed two times before he/she can be considered ready to go home.

When all is said and done, bows are secured, bandanas tied, special cologne is used (unless owner would prefer not) and your dog is ready to go!

Picking up your pet…

At the time you dropped off your pet, you and your groomer most likely decided on a pick-up time. It is extremely important for you to be on time, not early, not late. Why? There are several reasons, if you decide that you will “just pop in” to see if your dog is finished, chances are you have just completely stopped all chance of your dog safely getting done if he or she has seen you. Once a dog has seen his or her owner, it is nearly impossible to regain control of the dog. The anxiety created when Fido “thinks” it’s time to go home and it really isn’t can put your groomer in actual danger. Dogs have been know to deliver very serious bites to a groomer that must calm a pet down after the owner came and went a second time. The dog does not understand, and it’s best to not challenge the anxiety or upset your dog. It is very hard on a dog to know the owner was there………..now gone again?…….

Another reason to be on time and not late to pick up your dog is for courtesy reasons. A groomer may have several dogs scheduled to be groomed, cage space can be a factor, your dog may not appreciate being caged any longer than he/she has to, which can create needless anxiety and trigger panic barking, or upset other animals in the shop being groomed. And of course many dogs may even “soil” in the cage after a long groom and it simply isn’t pleasant to pick-up your dog after he/she “used” to be clean!

*Here are a few other things all pet owners must keep in mind or consider when having any pet groomed and a few reminders for additional information.

Please remember to “relieve” your pet BEFORE he or she is admitted to the Salon. Dogs can be VERY uncomfortable and “antsy” if they didn’t have a chance to relieve themselves before they come in. And it can hurt your dogs bladder/bowel to have to hold it so very long. Some of the table devices used for additional support to hold Fido in a standing position (if he/she is not used to a full voluntary stand groom) can be restricting to the groin area if a pet has a full bladder. Ouch! Many grooming salons will not have the opportunity to take your pet out, or will actually refuse to do so as the pet could spook and actually get away from the groomer causing a terrible, frightening situation for both the groomer and the pets owner. Also keep in mind that many of the groomers insurance policies or even the City or Towns agreement to a conditional use policy for permits will not allow the groomer to actually take peoples pets outside the proximity of the Salon.

A dog admitted for grooming must “stand” in a position that allows the groomer to perform all aspects of the groom. The standing position can be complicated by a dog that must require additional support from the groomer. A dog being groomed must stand for a period of up to several hours to make the entire grooming procedure possible. Aging pets, disabled, arthritic pets, pets that had recent surgeries or dogs with hip complications, etc. will most likely have to stay a bit longer with the groomer as the groomer must allow “rest” periods for this pet thus increasing total time. Aggressive, scared, nervous and new pets can require additional time spent on the dog so the groomer can safely avoid being bitten or decrease nervousness (trying to get the pet to relax) and calm down for a safe groom. First time puppy grooms can also require additional time as the groomer must be certain to allow the puppy to relax and feel comfortable enough around the equipment to be able to use it safely on the new pup. Pups are not seasoned adults and each piece of equipment must be slowly introduced so as to allow your pup to become accustom with the sounds, feel, and surroundings of a grooming Salon.

Extremely SHARP, potentially dangerous or even deadly grooming tools are used while grooming your pet. If a pet is uncontrollable or very scared to the point of jumping or snapping, a groomer may have to contact you to pick up your pet for safety reasons. Many dogs may not be easy to control for the hours spent on a grooming table. They are anxious, nervous, and occasionally lash out at the virtual stranger that is handling every single portion of the dog’s body. In some cases, it is best to have the pet sedated at the Vet and complete this procedure to be certain the pet is not able to injure him/herself or the Groomer.

Grooming can indeed be a very stressful few hours for any pet, but much more stressful on a dog that may not be accustomed to it on a fairly regular basis. Many dogs are used to being groomed and they completely understand the routine when they are started young and have no problems with the event. It is a great idea to introduce your pet to professional grooming as soon as you can. Each time the animal visit’s the Salon, it will get more accustomed to all the fuss and muss, noises, general routine and handling by your groomer. Don’t expect miracles on any first time groom. A groomer is careful NOT to upset a new pet and wants to make this experience as comfortable as possible.

A groomer should do 2 things when you pick up your pet. One, tell you how your pet reacted to his or her groom. (This gives you valuable information to pass along to another groomer if you should ever relocate. Or it could even help you and your family if you clip your dog’s nails, brush, and bathe etc. in-between professional groomings.)

Please do not be offended if the Groomer tells you Fido was “nippy, when nails were done”, or not happy about a particular portion of the groom. This is told to you for very good reasons. It doesn’t mean that your dog “hated” the Groomer. It really can mean that your dog just hates to have his feet ha ndled and it is information you should be aware of for your own safety or that of another Groomer or even Veterinarian.

Two, the Groomer may make you aware of a “found” medical condition. Such as a tumor, ear infection, skin disorder, etc. Many times the client is completely aware of the existing problem, but in many cases it is the Groomer that may save the life of your pet by reporting all findings. It is very common for a groomer to locate a tumor or other life threatening condition well before the owner or even the Vet knew it existed. We want to be helpful and let you know about all medical findings just in case you may not already be aware.

Should the owner stay for the grooming?

Some owners insist they be present to calm Fido down……They believe they * Must * be present because FiFi or Fido gets too upset or nippy when they leave the animal behind. Nine out of Ten times, the dog is perfectly fine, and even more understanding and will eventually calm when he or she is left at the Groomers to be groomed without the owner. Our beloved pets look towards the owner for approval, it is very common to hear an owner that is present say to their dog that want’s nothing more to jump back into the lap of Mom or Dad, “Oh Fido, Stop that, or Fido, you be a good boy, stop that nipping, shame on you”………….The poor dog is struggling between a virtual stranger and Mom or Dad that sits aside trying to comfort the pet. The dog does NOT understand this. They see an “out” and most often will push escape all the way to a bite out of protection or fear. Many dogs can and will bite at sharp equipment when the owner is present, thus increasing the chance of your dog getting seriously injured in some cases. First time pup grooms or adult dogs that have never been to a groomer are definite candidates for being left to the groomer alone. The reason for this is that the increased anxiety of you being there with your pet can destroy what groomers often refer to as “the learning period”. The learning period is essential for your dog to understand what specific commands may be. Such as the “Stand” command. A new pup or new dog may be placed in this position dozens of times over the course of a newer groom. It is imperative the dog stand still so as not to get injured by razor sharp equipment. One wrong move, the scent of the owner, a voice of the owner or distraction by the owner can make what the owner thought was a “good thing” decide all the way to the Vet, that is wasn’t so good they stayed because FiFi, became confused and wanted to “see’ or get to the owner while the groomer was using those sharp instruments. If you have not been requested to accompany the groomer for a specific reason, then please, leave the grooming to the groomer. They are trained professionals that would much rather see your pet be groomed without the additional anxiety a present owner can unknowingly cause.

Here are a few other reasons a groomer may find it difficult for an owner to remain while their dog is being groomed… One, being that it can completely disrupt a groomers schedule as it is rare that any one dog be completed from start to finish in a single session. (For instance) when one dog is being dried, another is being pre-groomed, bathed, etc.

Most Groomers have a routine schedule for grooming their clients pets. At the time pets are admitted, an overall synopsis of “who’s first” takes place. Drying time, disposition, table time, etc. for each pet is lined up. It would be extremely rare for a Groomer to groom any one pet from start to finish without placing another pet in the daily grooming line-up. The fact a groomer cannot continue with a normal or regular routine when an owner of one pet is present can completely throw off the daily routine and can not only cost the groomer money, but can often put other clients behind on pick-up times and also confuse the other waiting pets. Many groomers have an additional charge for the owner to be present at the time their pet is groomed, this is not to deter an owner from being with a pet, but due to the costly loss of time in a day it takes to cater to an individual person and pet. Staying can often cost as much as double the original groom price to do so. Other Groomers have a strict policy that will not allow any owner to be present. (Unless just cause) Not because they don’ t like to have company or have a person watch, but the statistics show this is when most of the distractions take place and the event of injury to groomer or pet is the highest. If you want to watch and see how your groomer does with animals, then it’s best to watch when another persons pet is actually being groomed. This way the animal has no attachment to you and doesn’t have the desire to pay attention to you as if it were your own pet.

In some cases the groomer will request the owners presence during a portion of the groom or even the entire groom because of an aggressive dog, or a medical condition that should require the owners help. A groomer is just trying to do what is best for your pet… Find out what your groomers policy is, and trust their judgement. If you do not trust them, then please do not bring your pet to that groomer…it is that simple.

Why did it cost more to have my pet groomed last time and less this time? Or visa/versa…

Every pet is an individual. They have good days and bad days such as their humans do. Some pets can require additional time due to these “bad days” and thus it does increase the cost of a groom. Some dogs that are more of a “risk” for potentially biting, or heavier, larger dogs, dogs with disabilities, etc. may require two people, or the change in a complete daily schedules for one groomer to be certain the pet gets the extra attention he or she may require.

In other cases, as with our own hair, we have good hair days and bad. Some pets require additional dematting, or a different style clip is put on the pet also affecting a pricing. Sometimes an owner may not “keep up” on regular in-between groomings thus creating much more time spent on an animal that would normally take a regular grooming time.

A Groomer usually has what they refer to as a “base price” or starting price for a particular breed of dog. This gives the customer and the groomer some idea ahead of time of what to expect in the end. But, always remember it is completely impossible for a groomer to make a definite “quote” on any dog they have never seen, or groomed before. Each pet is as individual as your car would be to a mechanic. It’s one thing to have a mechanic “meet” your car, and inspect it and give you a quote before the work is completed, but even they too can never be certain until all is said and done. It is a similar situation, but even more difficult as your pet is a living, breathing, moving object that is delicate and fragile to all involved.

Scheduling your pet- Once you decide on a groomer, and you have Fido’s routine all set, you may want to consider making your appointments in advance. Groomers are in high demand for their skills and it isn’t uncommon for a groomer to be booked weeks in advance, sometimes a month or better especially around Holiday seasons. Consider pre-booking for your slot so you won’t be disappointed at not being able to get in exactly when you need to. If you should have to re-schedule or cancel any appointment, please do so at least 24 hours in advance. This will allow the groomer to call in another patiently waiting client so they can take the valuable slot you can not be present for.

Answering machines? Why do groomers use these stupid things?! Well, many groomers might just be working alone. It is impossible to answer every call especially when a dog is on the table or in the tub. Please don’t be afraid to leave a message. It may be the only way a groomer can speak to you to answer questions or return calls. In other cases, a groomer may work “hours by appointment.” This means they may not have exact shop hours, but set appointments according to individual scheduling days.

A groomer is indeed a special individual. A professional that chooses to spend countless hours making certain your pet is treated with respect, care and love. Each pet we groom is very special. We feel the joys of a new pup, the concerns of a medical finding, the aging and loss of a pet we have been honored to know and groom for many years.

We care about the owner…and what they think and how they feel. Please consider your groomer as your friend… afterall, we have something very important in common. A love of animals and your beloved pet…

Thank-you for taking the time to read all about “A Day At The Groomers”…I hope it has helped you to better understand a pet’s day with your pet care professional.